The Third Annual Engage Innovators and Entrepreneurs Forum

Erin Nelson (director of advancement) and Brady Cline (learning innovation coach/personalized learning coordinator) write on the third annual Engage Innovators and Entrepreneurs Forum at the Tokyo American Club held on March 14. The American School in Japan and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) coordinated the event, providing an opportunity for ASIJ students to hear directly from leaders in innovation and entrepreneurism, and to network and exchange ideas with members of ACCJ.

Thirty-five ASIJ sophomores, juniors and seniors arrived at this year’s Engage Innovators and Entrepreneurs Forum ready to share their ideas and gain inspiration from (and also give inspiration to) the Tokyo business community. The event began with some informal networking where ACCJ members were able to view profiles of the students’ areas of interest and speak directly with students.

Among the guests were representatives of USUI Co, Ltd, which recently launched an internship program for ASIJ alumni at their Shizuoka headquarters. Hiroko Suda, whose son Hayatoshi ‘15 attended ASIJ, provided the introduction to USUI for ASIJ. Hayatoshi attended the event and was able to share his internship experience at USUI with students, who might one day apply to the internship program as college students.

After 30 minutes of networking, the program began with junior Millie Kobayashi providing an introduction. She passed the baton to Jennifer Shinkai, a diversity and inclusion consultant and leadership coach, who served as moderator for a fireside chat with five innovators: current parent Peter Grasse, Executive Producer, Dictionary Films Tokyo; senior Yusuke Ma; Megumi Moss, Founder and CEO, CareFinder; Class of 2001 alumnus John Saddington, Entrepreneur, Blogger (via pre-recorded video from the US); and current parent Shin Sakane, President and CEO, Seven Dreamers.

The topics spanned keys to success, to the importance of networking and how Japan can approach encouraging entrepreneurism in the education system.

Ray Proper, ACCJ Chubu Vice President; H&R Consultants K.K., offered his thoughts on the event saying, “[The students] seemed quite keen to do something entrepreneurial, and asked really good questions about that. I certainly had no such interest as a high school student, and their interest in it was extraordinary for me in that light.”

The response from students was also overwhelmingly positive. One student reflected that “The panel discussion was organized very well and because of the preparation, they had very thoughtful answers to each question. For me personally, the question about what you would tell your 20-year old self was very inspiring. Their advice seemed very applicable, even to a high schooler who is only thinking of being an entrepreneur for their career.”

Over two-thirds of students said that they made an interesting new connection with a professional, and almost every student asked to be included in future networking events.